Toshiba is taking another crack at high-definition DVD, sort of. Half a year after it ceased combat major operations in the format wars with Philips, Sony and the Blu-ray format, Toshiba has taken the wraps off XDE, a new up-conversion format that it claims can wring more resolution from pictures on your standard-resolution DVDs.
The premier model is available now for a list price of US$149.99. Dubbed the XD-E500, the unit converts the 480p DVD signal to 720p, 1080i or 1080p. The mode you select depends on the resolution of your display. There are also sharp, color and contrast modes, two of which can be enabled in certain combinations. According to Toshiba's XD-E500 Web page, enhancement effects will vary depending on the quality of disc content quality and your display's capabilities and settings. Hmmm, I guess that would be OK. The company also warns that "depending on the quality of the DVD disc, some video noise may be visible." Who cares about a little video noise, right?
Oh, and there's one more thing. "Due to laser pick-up and disc design," it might not play some DVD-R and DVD-RW discs, and some recordable media or recording formats may not be supported. Well in that case, I'll take two.
This move by Toshiba is either extremely smart or extremely dumb. If it's a way to repackage and clear out Toshiba's obsolete DVD-HD inventory, it's not a bad idea. But that doesn't seem likely since the XDE "does not produce or output native HD video content," says Toshiba. More likely is that the company thinks there's a market for high-priced players of standard DVD media that may not play some of your collection, don't look as good as Blu-ray and have more visual noise than $49 units.